Sophia Melita, Batsi ceramist

by Irma Havlicek, Powerhouse Museum Web Producer
with Lea Alexopoulos, archaeologist

Sophia Melita behind her shop counter.
Sophia Melita behind her shop counter. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek

Sophia Melita knew from an early age that she wanted to be a ceramist so she went to art school at 17 to study the craft. After four years study in Athens, she began her career as a ceramist which is what she has now been doing for 33 years, running her own workshop and shop.

From late May to early October, the holiday season, she sells her products in her shop in Batsi (up the steps off the main street, and to the right from the Tountas Bakery). For the rest of the year she is working in her workshop in Andros, creating ceramics for her shop.

We didn’t see her shop last year as we arrived in Batsi after she had closed the shop in October. But this year we were lucky and got here a couple of weeks before she closed her shop for the off-season.

A Melita display featuring bird imagery
A Melita display featuring bird imagery. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek

Sophia’s surname, ‘Melita’ originates from the ancient Greek word ‘Melitta’ – which became ‘Melissa’ in modern Greek, meaning ‘bee’. That is why she uses the bee symbol on all of her works, and why that is what she has called her shop.

Melita ceramics featuring fish, vine leaves and bee imagery
Melita ceramics featuring fish, olive leaves and bee imagery. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek
A Melita display featuring subdued tones and fish and vine leaf imagery
A Melita display featuring subdued tones and fish and olive leaf imagery. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek

Her work is very reasonably priced and features Greek imagery derived from ancient works – birds and fish, as well as imagery to connote good fortune – such as the pomegranate. And, of course, the bee. She works in a variety of styles and colours, to produce ranges that appeal broadly. I know several members of the Zagora team will have items from her shop back at home in Australia as mementos of their time here.

A display of Melita ceramics
A display of Melita ceramics – many of these are replicas of designs used in traditional tapestry. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek
One of our Zagora team, Lea Alexopoulos, making a purchase from Sophia Melita
One of our Zagora team, Lea Alexopoulos, making a purchase from Sophia Melita. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek
Sophia Melita sherving customers in her shop in Batsi
Sophia Melita serving customers in her shop in Batsi. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek
The exterior of Sophia Melita's shop
The exterior of Sophia Melita’s shop. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek

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6 thoughts on “Sophia Melita, Batsi ceramist”

  1. We’re absolutely delighted to see Sophia’s shop featured in your blog – we call in there every time we’re on Andros to buy a couple of items. I particularly love the large plates with the naieve paintings of sailing ships on them – they’re a wonderful reference to the island’s proud maritime heritage – one can be seen directly above Lea’s head in the photo of Sophia handing her her purchases. Sophia is a charming woman, clearly devoted to her craft, and her enthusiasm really comes over. I hope this mention brings her more customers – she certainly deserves them!

    • Thanks, Malcolm. Last year we arrived after most of these shops had closed for the off-season. This year we arrived just a week or two before many of the shops are closing. Fortunately, we managed to get here while Sophia’s shop was still open. I bought a couple of pieces myself (restricted by time available before her shop closed, and what I will be able to fit into my luggage for the return to Australia): the medium-sized white plate with the blue bird on it in the second picture down from the top, just beneath the upper shelf. I also couldn’t resist a small white container with a pomegranate painted on the lid, especially after Lea explained to me that the pomegranate is considered good luck. Sophia’s charm and warmth infuses her shop and the works she produces. It’s special to have a hand-made (rather than mass-produced) memento of a visit to Andros which incorporate imagery of ancient Greece, and has been made by a person from the island. And it’s a bonus that her wares are very affordable!

      Do let me know if there are other places you’d like me to try to cover for this blog. I can’t promise anything because I’m so busy – but I can try….

  2. Oh gosh, we’ve so many favourite places on Andros! The beaches in the far North-East of the island at Zorkos and Vitali are lovely if the wind’s not blowing, but Fellos (just to the North of Gavrio) is also lovely, as is Chalkolimionas which is quite near to where you’re digging at Zagora – I’m told that there are “ancient mines” there. In Batsi we like to hang out at the Asterix Bar, half-way along Batsi beach. In the Chora we always stop off at the Laskari Pastry Shop – we like the almond buns (Amygdolata), but the walnut and honey cakes (Kaltsounia) are simply out of this world! – they come in 500gm and 1kilo boxes, and we always bring a couple of boxes home with us!

    • Oh my – such a lot of fabulous things! I’m not sure whether any of us will be able to explore any of these – but I’ll let you know if we do. I suspect the pastry shop in Chora is already a favourite with some of us – as recommended by Beatrice McLoughlin, our coarse wares expert (whose recommendations, I have found, are to be relied upon).

  3. We frequently buy ceramics when on holiday, why are the things we like to take home always heavy ? We popped in here to have a look and ended up buying more than we intended. Very good prices and very attractive ceramics some of which we bought as gifts which were beautifully wrapped by Sophia. We will visit again !

    • Hi Robert – I quite agree. I generally try to buy lighter things when travelling, so I have quite a collection of international bookmarks (the Acropolis Museum bookmarks are fabulous) and coasters now. But Sophia’s ceramics were so lovely, I had to buy some too, for myself and also as gifts.

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